tv U.S. Britain Artillery Production 1941-43 CSPAN November 5, 2017 10:43pm-11:51pm EST
or notoriously present in the plains. in his novel that was published in 1954, manfred describes some of hugh glass' experience. he ate and drank and slept all through the day and night. he slept on the sandbar, one arm protectively over the half-eaten bull calf. when wolves and coyotes and cultures threatened, he fought them off. sometimes hunger woke him. sometimes snarling wolves woke him. a full belly always put him to sleep. in talking to students when we , talk about what is it that is distinctive about the great
plains where we live, i often like to point out the fact it is the immediacy of history. i think for these writers as well. and in the case of frederick manfred, he farmed for a number of years along with his father. but it would have been his grandfather who would have been the first generation that would have moved into this part of the country. in the case of krause, the same would have applied. his grandfather would have been from germany and moved here. one of the early immigrants to this part of the country. we are talking a generation or two generations before. i think in order to understand themselves and to have a perspective on what their role might have been in this vast area called the plains, they only needed to go back one or two generations. what is unique about this part
of the country, i would say it is that immediacy. unlike some of the other areas of the country that go back 200, 300, 400 years, certainly the contact period for the dakotas is much more recent. announcer: our cities tour staff recently traveled to sioux falls, south dakota, to learn about its rich history. learn more about sioux falls and other stops on our tour at c-span.org/citiestour. you are watching american history tv, all weekend, every weekend on c-span3. announcer: next, historian james holland talks about american and british artillery production between 1941 and 1943, after german forces invaded soviet territory.
he is the author of several books on world war ii. the national archives hosted this event. it is about one hour and 10 minutes. >> 75 years ago, europe was engulfed in the war that had already lasted for three years. the allies pushed back but there was yet no end in sight to the conflict. james holland tells the story of those crucial years of world war ii in his new book, the allies strike back. volume two of his war in the west trilogy, following the rise in 2015.y, published he read the archives and conducted interviews in the course of his research for this book including here at the , national archives. world war ii related holdings
involvedfrom agencies in world war ii, created tens of thousands of cubic feet that are now held in the national archives. thousands of photographs and recordings bring us face-to-face with many facets of the war and its aftermath. maps and plans provide graphic detail of the scope and movement of the war. every day, in our research rooms, online researchers examine records and german records to uncover the stories of the war and the people who fought, died, and survived. during this 75th anniversary, the national archives staff is ready to assist those who come to us searching for the evidence of what happened in the past. today's guest speaker, james holland, is an historian, broadcaster and writer.
, he has also written numerous works of historical fiction. his articles have appeared in newspapers and magazines. he has written and presented bbc documentaries. a fellow of the royal historical society, he advised the british government on history curriculum and has his own collection at a the imperial war museum. please welcome james holland. [applause] >> thank you. it is wonderful to be back here at this fabulous institution at the heart of your nation's capital. so thank you. i'm going to start with this image. i want you to hold onto it if you can. what you are looking at is a row of american sherman tanks, a lot of landing ships, this is just before the invasion of sicily in
1943. it shows the sort of level of military might that is building by that stage. on the face of it, it is quite an unremarkable picture. it is very much the image that we have of the western allies in world war ii. this one of enormous firepower and enormous material weight. and yet, the road to that point in july of 1943 is an extraordinary one. park that there for a moment. i will come back to it at the end. but i'm interested in when it comes to world war ii, about our assumptions. there are a huge amount of assumptions. there is a well-worn narrative and one that is pretty well entrenched.
one of those is regarding the combatants themselves. we have an image of mean nazis. this is the bad guy from the battle of the bulge. he's every person's image of the nazi, ferociously to looking but mean that mesh ferociously -- ferociously good-looking what mean as well. sinister. then we look at a picture of a g.i. i love this picture. this is from "life" magazine taken some time during the normandy campaign. look at him. he is healthy, fit, strong, he is doing his bit for uncle sam. his helmet is at a jaunty angle.
when you look at just about every single hollywood war movie that has ever been made, that is the inspiration. you can see it. "band of brothers." "saving private ryan." that is the look. than you think of russian war heroes. lethal, icy beautiful russians. then we think of the bad, sneaky british. you think of the general who summarizes everything we think about as stuffy, old-fashioned england, stuck in the past. clinging onto an empire that has long since outlived its usefulness. and when we think of the germans, this is what we think about. particularly in the early years, the german army was the best in the world. the best trained, the best motivated.
groovy motorbikes and sidecars and dive bombers and the best small arms. and of course, it has got tiger tanks. we are thinking about tanks in the we are thinking about tiger second world war, tanks. big, mean, very scary. and it is no accident that the tiger tank is very much a bad guy in the film. as an historian, i am thrilled by new world war ii films and tv series. i am thrilled that there will be follow-ups to "hand of brothers." i was thrilled when "fury" came out. i was excited about it. not least because the director
had been going on about how authentic it was and how the attention to detail was so perfect. i went in with high expectation s. the first thing i see is this quote on the side of the picture. in world war ii, american tanks were outgunned and out armored by the more advanced german ones. you just can't say that. on what basis is that statement being made? not an accurate one. pershingsthat more were being built than tiger tanks pershing had a 90 millimeter gun. that is bigger than any tiger. they were on par with the gun of the tiger tank. there were good reasons why sherman tanks were not as heavily armored or as heavy as a tiger tank. it is not a question of one being better or not. that is nonsense.
the idea that the rich american armies going into germany at the end of the war were somehow being outgunned by the germans, which were a complete wreck of an army by 1945, is absolutely nonsense. far more common than tiger tanks were self-propelled guns like this. curates --tational turrets. does anyone know how many tiger tanks were built in the war? i can tell you. 1347. think about how many sherman tanks were built. 49,000. 74,000 sherman hulls. this is a british crew.
we in the british army like our sherman tanks. for me it is the best tank of , world war ii. if you lined up a tiger tank against a sherman on a football pitch, the tiger is going to win because it has a bigger gun. and more armor. but there is lot about the sherman tank which worked in its favor. it is very simple. simple to maintain. look at the tracks. you can see the suspension arms coming down onto the wheels. they are on the outside. that means if anything goes wrong, you can repair it really easily. the transmission in a sherman tank is manual. the transmission in a tiger tank is a six-speak hydraulically powered gearbox. it is incredibly complicated. what happens when you put an 18-year-old recruit in one of those tanks, they break the
gearbox and then your tiger is no good to anybody despite his powerful gun. there are other things you need to factor in. for the most part, when the sherman came into being, the allies were advancing. when you're advancing, you have to go across rivers and ditches. all sorts of things that the retreating enemy has blown up in its wake. you have got to get across. how do you get across the river with a bridge that has been destroyed? you put a bailey bridge across it. you put a class 40 bridge across it. it is the easiest. it can take 40 tons. there is no point in having anything bigger like a pershing at this stage because it is not going to get across the river or your bridge. or certainly not easily. the great thing about the sherman tank is it is 30 tons. even with extra bits of wood and ammunition, five men, and other bits and pieces, it is still
less than 40 tons. it is incredibly versatile and easy to maintain, very reliable. there are lots and lots of them. that is very important in a long drawn out, attrition of war. war is understood to be fought on three levels. there is a strategic level. that is the higher range, the goals of the war leaders. then there is the tactical level. this is the cold face of war. this is your tank crew. this is soldiers in the foxhole. attritionaltual fighting bit. the third level is the operational level.
this is the glue that binds the strategic to the tactical. it is logistics. supplies. the economics of war. making sure the g.i.'s have enough hershey bars and cigarettes. this is the bit that has largely been left out of the narrative of world war ii in the last 50 years. when you read your big new history book, there is lots about montgomery and patton hating each other's guts. lots about being in a tank or foxhole. but there is scant regard to the operational level, the supply of war. how that worked. how people get their rations. how you maintain someone in a war. it is amazing how often you can talk to a tank crew and they are sitting there with a veteran, and they are telling you we were there, we got out, the tank was knocked out and the
next day we were back in action. but i thought your tank just got knocked out. you were driving the next day. i remember talking with a soldier who is saying, every morning, we had the full complement of spitfires every morning. it did not matter how many were shot down the day before. they appeared as if by magic. that is the forgotten bit. it is completely crucial. it is very crucial when understanding what is going on with germany. here is a map of germany from 1936 to 1939. what it shows is germany's position in the heart of europe. but look at the coastline. look at the north of it. look what a complicated mess it is in the baltic. it is a whole series of narrow passages and islands. they have a little bit on the north sea. that is it. that is their access to the world's oceans.
following the first world war, overseaseir possessions were taken away from them. the problem is, the vast majority of the world resources and supplies were transported around the world by ship. germany does not have that luxury. they have a small merchant fleet. and they were coming back from northern sweden. but for the most part, they are dependent on supplies coming from other parts of europe and elsewhere. that makes life very difficult to germany. but this is not anything new. this is something germany has always understood. it is resource poor, said they have to fight the war in another way. the other problem is that germany is very short of fuel, which is a problem in the modern world, where fuel and oil are absolutely crucial to efficiency and modernity, and also to food. if i told you, for example, this
is a picture of latvian peasants in 1931, i suspect most of you would not have any major cause to doubt what i'm telling you is true. in fact, these are a bunch of german farmers in 1938. this is indicative of german agriculture. it really is. it is not a place of large ferguson tractors and things. germany is very under mechanized, one of the least automated societies in europe in 1939. yes, isn't it amazing how often when we talk about nazis, we talk about the nazi war machine. the "war machine" is something like a spear. the point of the sphere is the mechanized motors, like the bmw motorbikes and all the rest of it.
the rest of it, the bulk of it, is a long, wooden shaft, which is the traditional way with horse and cart. the cause of this shortage of resources, before germany became germany when it was pressure, has always fought wars this way. what you have is you have mastered the operational command. you hate your enemy incredibly hard at the point of impact. then you do a cauldron were, annihilate your enemy before they have the chance to recover their balance and can fight back, and you went very quickly. you go into poland and it is over in two weeks. you going to the mainland and in france, it is over in six weeks. that is the kind of fighting germany does. problems arise when you don't
have that complete victory in that period. unfortunately for germany in 1940, they don't defeat britain. the army leaves its kit at dunkirk, as we've all been reminded with the film, but the army is intact. the army from britain was incredibly small. they had to rebuild from scratch, pretty much. the army from the u.s. was also pretty small and they had to rebuild from scratch in 1940. but there were also other aspects of britain's empire, the world's largest navy, the largest merchant navy, a huge amount of research, lots of able scientists. britain is far from being defeated and that is a problem for germany. that means the war is going to go on. by 1941, and again, when we look at world war ii, often guilty of being rather land centric -- it
is true, they will need boots on the ground to regain possession of land, but it is true it was fought on the land, the air, and at sea. one of the things i've been trying to do with this new series, ambitious though it is, what has to be borne in mind is that it is not just about gaining territory on land. you can't see world war ii in terms of ink spots. it is no good just siphoning off the battle of the atlantic as the battle of the atlantic. you need to see it from all perspectives. when we look at those early years of the war up to may 19 41, what we are seeing is one way traffic, because we are focusing on land campaigns.
we are seeing this, this change in the color of the map. you are looking at europe dominated by the nazi's, and pro-nazi forces. by may 1941, germany has already used up the benefits of occupying those territories. it is true that in norway they have other bases in the oceans, but surface ships can't get out into the oceans, and merchant ships cannot get out, because of the royal navy and the economic blockade being enacted at that point. they've been like kids in a sweet shop and the cupboard is absolutely bare by may of 1941. by the end of 1940, france is the most automated nation in europe at the start of the war. by the end of 1940, it has just 8% of the vehicles it started with at the beginning of 1940. 92% of the vehicles have gone. they have been next by the
germans. they stole it. the germans have stolen most of their coal, food supply, and gold, and they are doing the same in the balkans, and greece. that is why the ramifications are going on even today, resentment against germany. they're running out of resources. they can't get them around the world the same way britain can or america can. there is really no other choice at this point but to go into the soviet union. one of the areas that they really fall short on is in the battle of the atlantic, in the naval battle. they have come to the war with a sizable surface fleet, but they would never be big enough to overwhelm the royal navy.
but they haven't done is built enough u-boats, for example. u-boats can get through a shipping blockade. service ships can't really. even if you venture out into the waters, and you managed to actually get out into the atlantic, you still have to come back again because you've got no overseas bases to refuel. you are according with danger every time you get out of port. not so with a u-boat. the trouble is that in 1939, there are only 3000 men in the u-boat arm. that is not enough. u-boats operate on a theory of thirds. you have a third out at sea, a third going back and forth because it takes a long time to move back and forth, and another third working up and training. it you've got a u-boat arm of only 40, that means you can't have that many in the atlantic. the crazy thing is at a time when convoys are starting across
the atlantic and they are not well protected because most of the royal navy is on anti-invasion want, that is the time for rich pickings. they do have pretty rich pickings against merchant ships, but at no point do they have more than 14 u-boats in the atlantic at any one time. that is not enough the atlantic is a big place. in january 1941, there are no more than six. meanwhile, britain has been focusing on the battle of the atlantic because it knows this is where the war is going to be won or lost. the moment they are not defeated in may or june of 1940, the moment the dunkirk evacuation is successful, they know the supply lines from all around the world, which ultimately come through the atlantic, that will be crucial in the years to follow. that is the place -- once you have secured lifelines, then you
can start building your army and thinking about how to take the attacks back to germany, but you have to secure your own base verse. best first. that is where the focus is. out of this comes unbelievable developments in technology. that is old hat britain. britain is a modern technologically driven warfare state. it is not an old-fashioned, victorian, stuck in the empire past fuddy-duddies. you need to disabuse that of what you've always thought. out of this comes the cavity magnetron, for example. it is a genius at convention that enables you to reduce the size of radar so much so that you can put it on a ship or aircraft. it is an invention that the germans, not only do they never invent it themselves, they never
realized the british and the americans have got at any point during the war. in march and april and may 1941, some of the finest, best, most experienced u-boat commanders are killed or captured. there's new technology coming in all the time, new advances in high frequency direction finding. new advances in air power, which is closing the ring a little bit around the atlantic, forcing the u-boats into the central atlantic which takes longer. that means they are less efficient. then the enigma codes are captured, along with the code book. air power is reducing the effectiveness of u-boats. the moment they go on the water, -- the moment they go underwater, they get slower.
germany has neglected that. we in history of neglect did that. we see 1939 as a dark year. the loss of crete, setbacks in north africa, and so on. in actual fact, and the most important data, britain has gotten to the point where they will no longer lose the atlantic. may 1941, a line has been crossed at which point germany can no longer win the battle. i can't see how there's any come back from that. obviously, long, dark days lie ahead.
but does that mean that they are going to lose the battle of the atlantic? no, i think germany is, and has already missed the boat big-time. the problem is by the summer of 1941, nazi germany has no other choice but to go inside the union. clearly it is a catastrophic decision, but clearly there's no alternative. nowhere else can they get the supplies and resources they need, particularly food, but all sorts of other things. books, copper, manpower. these are rich lands. if you don't have shipping, these are the only alternatives. the germans recognize they have to annihilate the red army, completely defeating into the point where they have total
victory in the soviet union within 500 miles. if they exceed that, they will succeed at the culmination point. that is the moment at which you can no longer operate in the way you want to operate, because the lines to supply are so great it is hampering your ability to maneuver and do what you want with speed. the german way of war, this method, is all about speed and maneuver, out gunning your enemy at the crucial point. i still think 500 miles is a long way. let's think about that. once you get into the soviet union for, you have a completely different railway gate. it is slightly larger. the russians destroyed their locomotives or moved them east as they retreated, so the germans cannot use that. they have to depend on the german railway system, meaning they have to narrow the tracks as they move forward. the other thing is in france, it is france's modernity and infrastructure that enables them to maneuver quickly. you cannot do that in the soviet union, because there is no infrastructure. there are vast tracts of nothingness. the other thing about the invasion of the soviet union,
yes, it is practical and a necessity that makes them do that, but because there are nazis, there is also an ideological idea behind it as well. there were millions of ukrainians who were on the side of the nazis, because they were no friend of stalin. a lot of the people that survived blamed stalin. because the nazis are nazis, they treat them brutally and burned villages, and what potential he could have been a source of manpower and support quickly turns against them. it is true that a lot of ukrainians did end up fighting, but a lot of them were turned
off by the brutality with which the germans rammed through. germans were taught that slavs are inferior beings. this is ideology. this is the racial supremacy we are talking about. they just treated them appallingly. the trouble is already you are getting -- if anything goes wrong, if you don't have that complete and total victory, at some point, they will fight back. when they do, you are going to reap what you sow. it is a terrible cycle of
violence starting in those opening weeks. to start off with, they capture one army after another. but they are still coming. what do you do with these german prisoners? how do you feed them? what do you do with them? i mean, the soviet prisoners. the germans are already short of food. there was stringent rationing introduced in germany in the summer of 1939. if you are ideologically thinking that a slav, a russian, is inferior, clearly, you can't give them more food than a german civilian at home. what happens is they start to starve and die. if you do keep them, managed to
keep them alive, you put them in factories because you are bleeding yourself dry already in manpower, and you have to exit german men from the factories and put them on the front. you have to replace the workers in the factory. the obvious are the prisoners of war and jews. the problem is you treat them terribly. that means their efficiency is down. whereas in britain, there is rationing, but the main part is to make sure everyone has a healthy diet, everyone is fit, so that there is enough to go around so everyone is properly well fed, you don't have people falling out with sick pay, and productivity goes up. i love this photo, this is from a private photo of a private soldier's album. it is not something you see in propaganda. that just makes my head hurt. this is the reality of the germans. this is not about half tracks and motorbikes. this is the reality of moving vehicles, troops and surprise -- supplies to the front.
inevitably that advance is starting to slow down. the other thing is the soviet union has moved very quickly, has trashed its own factories and moved the machine tools you need. they have moved them east already to new factories being developed. even if you do get to moscow, there's no guarantee the soviet union is going to roll over and collapse. it might, but it probably won't. suddenly, you are getting into some really, really big distances. the moment that the germans are not as mobile and not as fast, and they cannot act as quickly, suddenly they are not quite so special after all. what happens is hitler's starts
to meddle and makes bed decisions. he always -- bad decisions. he always starts to meddle when he's feeling fretful. still there is no sign of the red army actually rolling over, yet more men keep appearing. some 80 divisions are formed between the start of operation barbarous and the third week of june 1941 and the end of september. 80 divisions. that is more than almost an america has in the entire war just in that period. these are new divisions. this is a bit like a hydra's head. what happens is it is not summer anymore, the rain started, and it is starting to get muddy. then the snow comes. the wheels are literally falling off the nazi. drive. goodness, doesn't that look
miserable? you can see this isn't a real nazi photograph, this is from a private collection. there are no half tracts and motorbikes. what you are looking at is force and cart, miserable people with not enough clothing. the whole thing grinds to a halt. september, the day of infamy, the japanese attack of pearl harbor that brings america into the war. it is extraordinary that in that week, it has to be one of the most momentous weeks in world history ever. it's interesting that just before that at the end of november, chris todd had a conversation with the furor. he was the armaments minister and realized what a complete nightmare it was. germany is smoke from having captured bedford from the british, which is great, until it needs a new gasket or distributor cap, and you haven't got the parts.
where do you get them from? there aren't any. the logistics, the quartermaster's nightmare of having all those different parts anyway, getting them invest distances to the soviet union, you can see the whole thing is grinding to a standstill. they already reached the part where they cannot reach -- when the war. and hitler's asks what they can do, so todd says to go for peace. hitler doesn't, of course. in june of 1941, germany has just one enemy, great britain. albeit, great britain is an empire with australia and new zealand, etc., but only one enemy on paper. fast forward that to the 16th of december, the day hitler takes over command himself, which is a catastrophic deficient -- decision.
win? traditionally it has always been seen that it is stalingrad that was a key turning point, are the last time the germans went forward in july 1943. i think you should look at the end of november of 1941. that is the point where barbarossa has failed. i cannot see how there's any come back after that. not once you start looking at america's entry into the war. talking of which, we are in the nation's capital, and then the
president, fdr, who i think was an amazing man -- the western allies were fortunate to have two man of vision -- men of vision. that's what you need. people who can see the big picture. churchill has that and so does fdr. it's over -- it's a remarkable when you think about may, june, 1940, the crisis months when france is failing, the british army is being defeated, but holland and belgium are crumbling as well. this is where he has what has got to be the biggest political holdfast in history. america was very inward looking. very down on big business. fatcats, the capitalists, they are out. so much so that there are witchhunts against certain companies. dupont stops making tnt.
by then, there is no one in the country actually manufacturing explosives anymore, because it is seen as such a bad thing. you got a situation where most americans think that if you have a large armed forces, you use them. conversely if you don't have them, you don't use them. there is some logic to that. history would suggest that is correct. what roosevelt realizes and recognizes in that period between september 1939 and the summer of 1940, the atlantic is not the great barrier that protects america. america needs to put in place a means of defending herself, because more sophisticated submarines might arrive. great air fleets might arrive. technology is advancing quickly. there is an election coming up november of 1940. he recognizes he is the only man really is best qualified to lead america through the next two much of this months and years -- tumultuous months and years. i think he's right, but he's got to be careful.
he's a democrat. he is surrounded by isolationists. he starts getting these big businessmen, like the ceo of general motors. people like that, the head of u.s. steel. these men who are capitalists, big business, everything painted as bad and wrong and willingness in the late 1930's, he is picking their brains. but he's talking about here is america is 19th in the world in terms of the size of army between portugal and romania, or something. on the eve of war, they have just 74 fighter planes. by may 1940, there are suddenly 50 heavy bombers. we are talking about tiny
amounts, and the president says we need 50,000 aircraft a year. this is not a slight rise. this is a vertical increase. how are you going to do this? what bill knutsen says, first of all, you have to let big business work. help the little man, but let big business do most of the work, because they have the know-how and infrastructure. it's going to take 18 months because it takes six months to build the machine tools. than it takes another six months to train up the manpower. then it takes another six months before anything is meaning -- anything meaningful is coming off the conveyor belt. then december 19 41, suddenly
america is in the war. it appears america has emerged fully formed as the arsenal of democracy, but the road has been incredibly rocky. i don't have time to go into it here, but trust me, this is the operational level. it is a sensational story. it shouldn't be kept separate from our whole understanding of world war ii and what is going on. look at what can happen when you start to harness that in the right way, once you get past those problems of argument in washington's press. you've got amazing people like charles sorensen, one of the number two guys in the ford
motor company, and he consolidates in california. they are making these wonderful bombers, but he realizes it is too complicated, too slow, too small in scale. think big. out of that, by september 1942, willow run is in operation. that had just been dustbowl land. suddenly, it is the world's largest factory, one mile-long. it is unbelievable. then you are thinking about -- i love this picture. henry kaiser, i know you know who he is, this great businessman symbol of emerging power and technological know-how, manufacturing know-how of the 1930's. he looks like a boiled egg, but i love this photo because you can see the glint in his eye. this is a man with so much energy and chutzpah. what happens is the british come over and have 10,000 merchant ships, and they lose about 2500. they need more coming across the atlantic. a young ship designer from northeast of england, he is sent over to america to get the americans to build more ships for the british. thompson has just designed
all of them say, "we would love to, but we are busy with contracts with the navy," and eventually he gets put in touch with kaiser. and kaiser says, "how hard can it be?" they find some places, but that is the next thing, where to do it. one of them is an area of richmond, north of the san francisco bay. another is in maine. kaiser says it will take six months or so before they can clear out the land and laying down the shipyards. fact, the first keels of the liberty ships were being laid down within four months. this is unbelievable. 1941 is the year of the third highest number of labor strikes in u.s. history, yet there are no strikes on henry kaiser's
watch. here is a liberty ship being manufactured. the idea is this is a bit like a pre-fab house. the difference between british and american way is the british still rivet stuff, and americans welded. the whole point about this ship, the design of the liberty ship is that it would be made in about 220 days. that is superfast. very quickly at the shipyards, they get that down to 175, then 150. then 100. then 75, then 50, then 20 days. then they build a liberty ship in 10 days. then at 3:27 p.m. in the afternoon of november the 12th 1942 after four days, 15 hours, and 26 minutes, there is one that is launched. that is unbelievable that you can build a ship in less than five days. obviously, that was a big stunt and corners were cut to get into the water, but it did get into the water. the point is, already by that
stage, several months earlier america and britain were producing way more merchant ships than were being sunk by u-boats. that battle is gone. by the summer of 1942, just not a chance. you then come to 1942. what are the germans going to do? they have recovered from the winter, the bit where they have been frozen, temperatures dropping to minus 39. now we are back to the old campaign season. the factories are starting to kick in more, more supplies coming in from america and britain. it is still very scary times if you are the soviet leadership. one reason is there is still this propulsion of military might that the germans have. there is a kind of our about them that has not -- aura about
them that has not been entirely dented. they are still to be feared and have very good machine guns. they do have pretty good tanks and highly experienced commanders. the men are disciplined. this is an army. for all its problems, they are still to be treated with respect. the plan for the germans in the main summer offensive for 1942 is to go to the oilfield of the caucuses. it is food and oil they are short of. the interesting thing about this, what are they going to do when they get there?
interestingly, this distance from the top, that map to the bottom right-hand corner, that is the leading oil producer in the world, and the dutch east indies. that is more than 500 miles. already, they are starting to break their role just by trying to get to the caucuses. even if they do get to the oil wells and even if the retreating red army hasn't destroyed them, what are they going to do when they get to the oil wells? transportey going to this oil? oil moves the world -- around the world by ship, by and large. the pipelines to berlin do not exist are the only alternative is the railway. again, they had to narrow the railway, then they had to find the capacity. the reichstag is already fit to bursting. the whole thing is utterly bonkers. what would have happened even if they had got into el dorado, even if the red army had not destroyed it, they would not
have had much use of it themselves. the whole point of this, this incredibly long, overreaching, ambitious drive in the summer of 1942, which incidentally is launched a week later than half a year before with fewer tanks, fewer units than the previous summer, do you think they will win? the answer is very unlikely. particularly since the soviet union has started to regain its balance. the factories are starting to pump out a lot of kits, and the commanders are starting to emerge. their learning the lessons that they were taught so harshly the previous summer. here it is. this is the image you always have of the nazis on the rise.
just look at that. the distance. this just underlies the vast expanse. no asphalt or roads in sight. the task they have given themselves, however much jeopardy there is for soviet leadership, this is too big of an ask for the nazis when they are overstretched because of failings of their italian partner, because of hitler's paranoia about the second flank. we brits are always accused of putting too much emphasis on the mediterranean theater and north africa. the one thing that was obsessed with the mediterranean was hitler. over crete, they lose transport
planes. they need us to help out the italian partner. the end of may, they attack the british. the british are not short of badly trained men, they are competent. the issue here 100% is the generalship, which is poor. they got themselves into a pickle. they had a part which cannot be bad -- bypassed by rommel. instead of reinforcing that and
making it impregnable, but they are outflanked. it turns into a rout and eight -- they retreat. fortunately for the british army, the line is the only part of the desert that has a flank -- doesn't have a flank, rather. fortunately, it is close to alexandria. this means the lines of supply are shorter. conversely, the axis lines are getting longer. fortunately, it is saved by the
raf at this point to the left, you have cunningham, and to the right, corner chief of the raf. you also have american units coming in as well. they are brilliant men. britain has emerged with set commands in the raf. that is because that represents the status. what happens in the battle of france of 1940, they realize there isn't any doctrine for this. this is what they have tried to work out. this is the beginning of a tactical air force where you are supporting ground troops, close air support as opposed to strategic air. they have very young, good, tough squadron commanders, people like billy drake, who commanded this squadron.
i met billy and he is a remarkable man. he said, "i was much older than my years." he was tough. he was 24 years old. these were highly motivated, really well-trained, but brilliantly led man. they were top guys. out of this came the tactical air force with the north africa tactical air force. the number two was the brigadier general of the u.s. army. he was a close student of cunningham, and helped layout
a postwar support for the doctrine as well for the u.s. military. this is all in this cradle in this time in north africa. we also have bombers, carpet bombing, and the axis forces have no arms. rommel tries to attack, fails, has one last push in august 1942. by this time, britain has new leadership in montgomery. then comes the battle of alameda. germany and britain are thinking about their armor, equipment, and what they need. it is really interesting. there is a study of two different approaches. when the britain -- when the british are commissioning new tanks, what they ask for is reliability, ease of maintenance, and gun and armor. what comes from the germans is big guns and armor. let's not worry too much about ease of maintenance. if you look at those wheel systems, think about that. it is so complicated.
that is before you think about transmissions and engines. yes, it is true, they are big. only about 6000 panthers made in the entire war. not very many in the big scheme of things, not compared to the 49,000 german tanks. the battle of alameda is launched by montgomery on the 23rd of october, and a couple weeks later it is the turn of a joint anglo u.s. army on the landing in northwest africa. the idea is this is a way we can gauge axis forces on the land while at the same time pull out green american troops, and work out how to do joint planning. this is an amazing example of how successful it is. it sets the benchmark for further brilliant cooperation between the warring nations, america and britain, and also when we talk about combined
planning we talk about joint service planning and joint national planning as well. there's responsibility for the planning for operation torch, mark clark, the american general, and he does it really only -- brilliantly. when he does it, you have three different invasion forces, and they all arrived at the same place where they are supposed to be. it is an incredible feat. you can do anything about the greenness of the american troops, but you can plan. that underlines the spirit of cooperation. historians one after another have tried to underline the huge tensions between senior commanders in america and britain, and the differences.
what is remarkable about the coalition is how well they all get on, actually. of course there are flashes of anger and frustrations. there are arguments on either sides. you are talking about men's lives. they have huge responsibilities, but by and large -- he is such a fine appointment and a fine commander as well. i cannot praise eisenhower enough. here is the invasion fleet coming. of course, the germans have a huge setback. they have been diverted on the push to the caucuses in summer of 1942 by going to stalingrad. stalingrad becomes a battle of pride but of no strategic importance to the germans.
the sixth army gets around it because of hitler's take headedness and stupidity -- pig headedness and stupidity. when he arrived in out syria, he had never seen a tank, let alone actually trained with one. when they go into action in the central southern part of tunisia, they all kind of runaway. he admits they were hopeless. there were some battle schools where they have live ammunition. they are thrown back into the line in northern tunisia in
april 1943. they were against stiff german competition. when they finally win in tunisia in may 1943, the rentals are leading the american parade. there was also a ruthlessness about the command as well. the first commander of the u.s. two corps proves himself to be massively short of what is needed. he is summarily axed. new people are brought in. it is not true the only ruthless people are the germans. increased tactical air force, new doctrine coming into play, all these things are signs of the growing weight and authority and power of the allied forces in the west. it's not just bombers. it is spitfires, p 40's, and the rest of it. at the end of it when the german
axis forces finally surrendered in may 1943, the losses in materials are bigger than stalingrad. hitler -- some 250,000 prisoners are taken. this is one of the last rose of -- earlier in january 1943, one of the key decisions was not only going into sicily, but to round up and finish off the battle of the atlantic. what's important about that that all of the atlantic is no longer that the outcome is in doubt -- it isn't -- but it is to make sure we secure the atlantic so we can start planning properly. you can only plan when you know 95% of your shipping will
actually make it to port. let's finish that. that becomes a priority. britain and america are starting to really make inroads and new technology. the air ring around the atlantic, the gap has been narrowed to almost zero. the u-boats have nowhere to go. you have a situation, this beautiful situation where the convoys have gotten 80% to about 95%. that means you can start serious planning. you can start planning for the invasion of normandy the following year in 1944, because you know what you are going to get is vital. at the same time in spring 1943, this is where the strategic air offensive against germany started to take root.
that starts at the beginning of march with the attack of the industrial heartland of germany. it is going to get heavier. the u.s. force is starting to build up as well. that noose around nazi germany is starting to tighten. i finis with the first picture i started with, looking at the mass of ships that are already here in north africa in the summer of 1943. it is three years. the summer of 1940 was kind of ground zero for britain's military effectively, but particularly the u.s., and look where they have gone in three